A Christmas Carol is perhaps best known for its mournful depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge – a character notorious for the infamous phrase, ‘Bah, humbug!’.
However, when devising their own version of the Dickens’ story, the Upper School had different ideas.
As Guy points out:
‘What we really wanted to display was Scrooge’s motivations. The common conception people have of the story is the old miserable man and the ghosts. But we wanted to get to grip with the characters in his life and his relationships – the way they’ve moulded him into the man he is – especially his fiancé, who a lot of people forget even exists!’.
So on Tuesday 4th December, the senior school play - A Christmas Carol - enjoyed its opening night in the Bourne Hall, featuring a cast of 25 students from across the boys and girls schools. Directed by Rich Weinman and Jas Lfferty (with Hugh Silver on Tech and Simone Jones on costume), ideas explored included the themes of kindness, relationships, family and the ability to change.
Drawing on professionals from a range of disciplines, including Joe Richardson and Ashleigh Cheadle from War Horse and Claira Vaughan from Strictly Come Dancing, the company worked hard to devise their own version of this well-known play.
We talked to three of the cast to learn a little more about the way drama is taught and performed at HABS.
Given the boys interest in character motivation, the role of Young Scrooge became essential in this adaptation.
Jamie Goodkind, who was tasked with performing this difficult role, explains ‘Young scrooge is so important because he gives context to what Scrooge does when he’s older. It’s the backstory I guess, it’s the relationship between Belle, his sister and his father.’
On the topic of relationships, we ask Jamie if there is a key moment in Scrooge’s life that leads him to change – ultimately for the worse.
‘I think him meeting Belle was quite pivotal. It was the first time that he falls in love.’
For Jamie, it is Scrooge’s choice of money and career over family and love that cause his inevitable downfall in the play.
In earshot of our discussion, Robbie decides add something about performance.
Indeed, Robbie has less to say about the characters themselves, and more about the way they were performed. This ‘method’ inspired approach to acting has influenced him hugely, as he says:
‘It’s all about the freedom to discover things within the rehearsal process. Like every night, you can experiment with different things. The acting is all about seeing what you feel in the moment, rather than having it preconditioned and pre-set. It’s like you discover things that you feel that you have to do.’
Rather than pre-learnt lines, mechanical cues and forced reactions, HABS drama is very much about what Mrs. Morris Wolfe calls ‘serious play’ – experimenting, improvising and varying an approach to character.
In particular, Robbie tells us about the difficulty of playing a certain scene, and how after a great deal of experimentation, he finally found the right reaction.
‘Well I struggled with the scene when Mrs. Cratchit is crying over Tiny Tim. Before I just kind of looked and went down on my knees. But then we experimented with pulling the curtain down and I completely broke down. It just felt so much more authentic. The reaction and emotion was something I wasn’t aware of at the time: I just had to discover it for myself.’
On the theme of discovery, we finally speak to Guy about the process of devising and creating a script.
Given his earlier speech about storytelling, it should come as no surprise that the real interest for Guy was the process of creating itself.
On devising the play, Guy says:
‘The way we’ve worked has allowed to have a real creative impact on the show. I feel a real sense of ownership of the play. We’ve all done some writing, some devising, we’ve all played around with the characters and the scene. It means a lot of pressure - but the result is a lot more truthful.’
Of course, the boys could have bought a script, followed directions and produced a polished but empty performance that followed the original to its core. But one thing Guy is keen to point out is just how well HABS drama empowers the students to make their own decisions, to tell their own stories.
Indeed, speaking of decisions, Guy has certainly had a busy week - finishing coursework, waiting on university applications and even attending an Oxbridge interview.
But when asked about the pressure of all this alongside his creative work, Guy has something truly inspiring to share – quite without prompting.
‘Well people say to me “How are you handling all the work?”. But the play is the thing that’s got me through all of that!
I think it’s been the perfect way to channel the free time, so that you’re productive, so that you’re doing something you really care about’
On this note, we would like to wish all our actors the very best of luck in their performance this week, and wish all of our boys, staff and parents a Merry Christmas: ‘As Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!’